Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Fun: 1940 Comes Alive

The Denver Post has a webpage with dozens and dozens of these pictures, very rare color photos that capture both urban and rural life in the 1940's
Check out many, many more at THIS LINK.

First, since this is Friday, we need to find a few Beer joints:

"Juke Joint" Melrose Louisiana 1940

"Juke Joint" Florida 1941

Cascade Idaho

Carnival barker

1943 women railroad workers

Washington D.C.

Montana shepherd and dog

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"The Bourne Identity" Fight Scenes

I thought I'd lighten things up a little, so here's a collection of the fight scenes from "The Bourne Identity", which I watched the other night.
-I know, I know, it's been out for a while, but I never watched the entire movie. I did see the made-for-TV version with Richard Chamberlin years ago however.
The fight scenes are refreshingly realistic, with the possible exception of Bourne (Matt Damon) riding a dead guy's body down three stories, shooting another guy in mid air.
Lots of joint locks, dislocations, knee-breaking. Good stuff. I like how he uses the Bic pen to Gak the hit man's knife hand - cool use of improvised weapons. The fight with the hit man was a little too much for my wife however. I thought she got over that with all the stabbings, shootings and throat-slitting when we watched "Deadwood" and "Rome".
Anyway, it got me thinking about the fighting system and training. Here's what Wikipedia says about it:

"Damon, who had never played such a physically demanding role, insisted on performing many of the stunts himself. With stunt choreographer Nick Powell and trainer Jeff Imada, he underwent three months of extensive training in stunt work, the use of weapons, boxing, and eskrima. He eventually performed a significant number of the film's stunts himself, including hand-to-hand combat and climbing the safe house walls near the film's conclusion.[5]"

Damon's trainer, Jeff Imada is credited with acting in or directing fight scenes in over 100 movies:

Jeff Imada (born June 17, 1955) is an American martial artist, stuntman, director, and actor from California. He has performed stunts in over 100 movies and television programs and authored one of the first books published in the US about the balisong knife.
He was also a close friend to Brandon Lee with whom he studied Jeet Kune Do under the tutelage of Dan Inosanto. He was the primary fight choreographer on Lee's final film, The Crow.[1]
Imada has authored two books on the history and use of the Balisong knife.[2][3] The Balisong Manual was one of the first books published in the US about this unusual knife.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

B.P., Libyan Oil And The Lockerbie Bombing

Oil well.
In August 2009, I wrote "The Lockerbie Bombing: What Really Happened".
People were outraged that Libyan agent Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, the accused Lockerbie bomber, was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds due to his cancer.
Now, with the eyes of the world on British Petroleum due to the huge oil blow-out in the gulf, it appears that a deal may have been cut to release Al Megrahi to fast-track a $968 million-dollar oil deal between B.P. and Libya.
But nobody is peeling the onion layers back far enough to understand what really happened. So, here is the repost of my August '09 story about Dr. Richard Fuisz, a CIA confidant I had contact with many years ago:

The Lockerbie Bombing: What Really Happened

Today's news is overflowing with outrage due to the release of the Libyan agent that allegedly was responsible for the bombing of Pan-Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Interviews with family members still grieving for those who were killed are sincere and heartfelt.
But their anger towards Libya and British authorities are misplaced.
In 1994 I was writing for "The Portland Free Press", a small alternative newspaper Edited by researcher Ace Hayes. At the time, I was running a series on military C-130 aircraft destined for duty as Forest Service airtankers that were diverted to use by a group of shady CIA contractors. A source had described to me how money connected to the operation was being run through a bank called "Congress Financial", which was a CIA front company.
I received an unsolicited phone call from the secretary of a man named Dr. Richard Fuisz, and I returned the call. Fuisz confirmed the information about Congress Financial, and told me he had called to see if I would run a story about his knowledge of the sale of huge Terex trucks that had been converted to missile launchers and sold to Iraq shortly before the first Gulf War. He had personally toured the assembly plant in Motherwell, Scotland and officials described that it was a joint operation by the CIA and British Intelligence. Fuisz ran afoul of U.S. authorities when he tried to take the story to "60 Minutes". He had been hounded by private security firms, and had even had a personal meeting with President Bill Clinton to remedy the situation. His hope was to try to get the story in print, and I ran the article.
At the time, I realized that Dr. Fuisz was well-connected, but I had no idea that he was an agent for the CIA himself.
The Lockerbie Connection
At the same time Fuisz was feeding me information on the Terex Iraqi missile launchers, he was in contact with another Portland resident, Susan Lindauer. Lindauer was a press aide for then-Congressman (now Senator) Ron Wyden, and it's my guess that Lindauer may have given Fuisz my article referencing Congress Financial.
It was Lindauer's connection to Fuisz that got her in hot water when she was arrested for being an agent of the Iraqi government, which she denied. She had met with Iraqi diplomats before Bush invaded Iraq, but claimed it was on official business. Lindauer was also the cousin of former White House Chief-of-Staff Andrew Card. A deposition by Lindauer described how she was working with Fuisz, and that Fuisz knew from his Intelligence work in the Middle East that the Lockerbie bombing was actually the work of Syrians. From "The Sunday Herald" of Scotland, May 28 2000:

"Congressional aide Lindauer, who was involved in early negotiations over the Lockerbie trial, claims Fuisz made "unequivocal statements to me that he has first-hand knowledge about the Lockerbie case". In her affidavit, she goes on: "Dr Fuisz has told me that he can identify who orchestrated and executed the bombing. Dr Fuisz has said that he can confirm absolutely that no Libyan national was involved in planning or executing the bombing of Pan Am 103, either in any technical or advisory capacity whatsoever."
Fuisz's statements to Lindauer support the claims of the two Libyan accused who are to incriminate a number of terrorist organizations, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which had strong links to Syria and Iran.
Lindauer said Fuisz told her he could provide information on Middle Eastern terrorists, and referred to Lockerbie as an "example of an unsolved bombing case that he said he has the immediate capability to resolve".
The Assassination of The Mckee Team
In a forgotten but incredibly revealing 1992 article, Time Magazine pieces together the story that contains clues to what actually happened.
On board the flight of Pan-Am 103 was an elite counter-terrorism team led by Major Charles Mckee. They were operating out of Germany and had been tasked to locating hostages in Lebanon. What they stumbled across was a parallel operation that was connected to none other than Col. Oliver North. North it appears, was in league with Syrian Drug runners (no surprise), presumably in an effort to secure information on the hostages also. North was allegedly allowing the Syrians to use a protected DEA drug pipeline run through the airlines in Europe. In the wreckage of the crash, investigators recovered Heroin and $500,000 in cash. The cash may have been in the hands of Mckee, to pay off informants. Mckee was upset and had contacted his superiors when he found the iceberg-tip of Norths operation, believing it may have compromised his own team. Mckee was on the verge of exposing the underbelly of North's shady dealings and the root of the entire Iran-Contra affair. According to the investigators hired by Pan-Am (Interfor, led by an ex-Mossad agent) the Mossad had warned of a possible airline bombing. The warning was ignored. The Mckee team, which was about to blow the whistle on the Iran-Contra scandal and North's complicity in drug running, was assassinated in the bombing.
Dr. Fuisz, who was placed under a gag-order never spoke to me after the Terex missile-launcher story. He places the blame on the Syrians, who got a pass if they would support Iraq War efforts. The blame shifted to Libya.
Susan Lindauer, the former Congressional Aide who was working with Fuisz, was placed in a mental institution on a U.S. Military Base and force-fed medication to shut her up. She recently appeared on "The Thom Hartmann Radio Show", once again explaining her story.

And today we watch as the accused Libyan agent, dying of cancer, is released from prison for humanitarian reasons.

Read This 1992 Time Magazine Story, before it disappears...

The Sunday Herald "CIA Witness Gagged by U.S. Government"

Lawyers for the accused bomber and British authorities are prepared to name the identity of the true bomber. They say he is an American/Syrian who was working as an American Double Agent.
Read the story here

And this:
Diplomats pulled off plane due to U.S. knowledge of bomb, students took their place.

So listen up kids. This is what's called "Realpolitik".
US agents were working with middle-eastern agents during the Iran-Contra affair.
They knew there was a bomb threat on the plane. The target may have been the Mackee team. It appears they let it happen.
Libyan Al Megrahi was probably a "patsy", the "Oswald" of Lockerbie.
And the Bush administration re-opened diplomatic relations with Libya so B.P. could get their oil deal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals

Perhaps the single most mysterious endeavour of man is identifying the true history of classical Chinese Martial Arts.
OK, maybe particle physics, gravity and understanding women rate pretty high also.
- But in their book "Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals - A Historical Survey", Brian Kennedy and Elizabeth Guo have peeled back the veil and peered into the murky legends as well as the actual people and events concerning Chinese Martial Arts.
Kennedy and Guo place significant emphasis on the quality of translation in evaluating ancient training manuals. Interestingly, they suggest some of the most useful and informative resources on the subject come from modern and even (gasp) -Western authors.
Kennedy and Guo painstakingly deconstruct martial myths and piece back together a rational history not only of masters and training manuals, but of the very culture itself. They rely heavily on the few legitimate martial historians of the time, best represented by a man named Tang Hao. Here's an example:

"Tang Hao's commitment to, as he phrased it, "attacking the lineage myths: distinguishing real and fake" is perhaps best demonstrated with his academic work on the origins of Taiji. Regrettably, his myth busting was largely ignored and his calls for a more realistic approach to the historiography of the various Chinese martial arts systems seem to have fallen on deaf ears."

In fact, the authors state that various martial clans plotted to attack Tang Hao, perhaps assassinate him because of his methodology and myth-busting. There is no evidence that ever happened however.
The second part of the book profiles various masters, and the training manuals they produced.
"Chinese Martial Arts Training Manuals" has become a personal favorite of mine. I appreciate the straightforward reporting and the authors opinions.
For people interested in the diversity of Chinese Martial Arts and the history and culture of the time, this is the book for you.

You can find this book and hundreds of other martial arts titles at the website for Blue Snake Books

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Fun: SuperHeroes, And No Nookie For NASA

OK, so around the country a whole bunch of comic book nerds are becoming actual pretend SuperHeroes. Much like millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) they rely on their wits and gadgets to rescue citizens from bandits and other Jokers.
From "Wired":
"The four members of the Initiative –a reference to Tony Stark’s post-Civil War, pre-Secret Invasion efforts to put a superhero squad in each of the 50 states? — act like bodybuilders with a purpose. And then they pack (non-lethal) heat.
Initiative member Z brandishes “giant ax handles bound with duck tape” and a cane that doubles as a club. He’s also got — in reserve — a legally dubious arsenal that includes ninja throwing stars and what author Tea Krulos describes as “stun knuckles (that make a loud zapping sound), throwing knives and spiky hand guards that look like something Genghis Khan would brawl in.” A battle ax appears to be merely for display.
The team’s gadget whiz, who goes by the unfortunate name Victim, is testing out some polycarbonate squares for durability against knives. Because being a hero means you’re going to get stabbed."
Here's one of these guys:

Good luck with that.


And this from The Huffington Post:

Sex Banned Aboard International Space Station

"You can forget joining the 200-mile high club.
NASA commander Alan Poindexter told a reporter who asked about "the consequences if astronauts boldly went where probably no others have been" that sexual intercourse is not permitted aboard the International Space Station.
"We are professionals," Poindexter said.
"We treat each other with respect and we have a great working relationship. Personal relationships are not [...] an issue," he explained. "We don't have them and we won't."
The question about sexual relations in space came after an April mission that put a record four women in orbit--the most women in space ever. Three women aboard the Discovery joined another women and four men aboard the International Space Station."

Somebody better tell this robot:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Martial Addiction

Old Guy Xingyi

Hi, my name is D.R.
-(Hi D.R.!)
I'm addicted to Xingyi.
That's why I entered the 12-Animal, 5-Element form program.
I know I've had bad habits.
But I can get better every day in every way.

It started when I had my first taste of Tai Chi Chuan.
Sure, all the cool guys were doing Karate, I tried it and used it for years.
I was a glutton for punishment.
I often found myself on the floor.
I had injuries I couldn't explain.
I thought I could get by just using Karate.

But I had never tried the Chinese stuff.
A guy offered me a little Tai Chi Chuan.
He said I already used Karate, and I wouldn't get hooked.
And that's when I got in deep.
There was so much resource material, and I wanted to sample all the varieties.
I tried Bagua, and found my life spinning in circles.
Finally, I got in with a group of guys in the city. They were messing around with Xingyi.
I thought; "Hey, all the guys are doing it".
And before I knew it, I was chasing the Xingyi Dragon and had the Xingyi Monkey on my back.
I often find myself really drawing inward and doing some Xingyi all alone.
I mainly use it for maintenance now, but every so-often I really cut loose with friends.

So, I'm here to discuss my addiction, and hear the stories of other martial addicts-
And seek serenity in the Martial Arts...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Coconut Revolution; A Must See

You may need to scroll the tracking arrow to the right to start the movie

This is the story of Bougainville, the home of a modern eco-revolution, a real life "Avatar" story.
Like most of us, I had never heard of Bougainville Island, which is (or was) part of Papua New Guinea in the Soloman Islands chain. Bougainville was variously occupied by the Germans, Japanese, Australia, and has been the front of a hard-fought guerrilla war. In the 1970's a London-based company began mining copper in huge open-pit mines which destroyed the jungle and poisoned the rivers. The mining company extracted an estimated three billion dollars in minerals while leaving the local population in poverty and ruins. In 1988 Francis Ona began the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), initially stealing large amounts of explosives from the mine and blowing up the power grid. Using bows, arrows and slingshots the BRA gradually began to defeat the national army, seizing weapons and eventually becoming heavily armed. The mine closed, but an embargo of supplies was forced on the island. Here's where the real story begins:
The people of the BRA became the most resourceful people on the planet. Using anything they could salvage from the old mine complex, they made their own guns and tools. They built hydroelectric plants for power, they made their own medicine and grew huge gardens. They even made fuel for their vehicles out of coconut oil.
This documentary, "The Coconut Revolution" is a testament to the ingenuity of man and the spirit of oppressed people that used natural resources to defeat a modern army.
It's fifty minutes long, but I hope everyone that reads this will sit down with their favorite beverage and watch and learn.

For more information on Bougainville Island and the Eco-Revolution, Here's the Wikipedia page.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Fun: The Bruce Lee Screen Test

I've never been the biggest Bruce Lee fan, but this is pretty damned good.
Here Lee is in the presence of Hollywood greats, and actually displays some humility along with his legendary confidence. He's been kept awake by his newborn son for three nights, yet is fresh, clearheaded and fast. He has a sense of humor as he displays the characters of classic Chinese opera.
Oh, if this guy had only lived a long life. How would he have grown and changed?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

To A Speedy Recovery

Let's all wish the seething evil known as Dick Cheney a speedy recovery from heart surgery so he can stand trial for war crimes...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: "Beyond Kung Fu"

When I got back from my last Xingyi training session in Seattle Monday, I found I had received the book "Beyond Kung Fu; Breaking an Opponent's Power Through Relaxed Tension", by Leo Fong. It had had a pretty good review by fellow Dojo Rat Bob over at "Striking Thoughts", so I had ordered it from Amazon.
In my opinion, this book would have been better titled "Beyond Hard-Style Martial Arts", or "How To Get Hard-Style Martial Artists To Relax".
Fong has a nearly legendary background in Boxing, Kung Fu and other arts, but the book falls short for me.
As concept books go, Fong barely touches on the topic of Chi, which he bases many of his exercises on. Same with meditation. Probably one page on each subject. He does have ideas on martial movement with very light weights, which is good.
Frankly, I have a little trouble with some of the traditional Wing Chun / Jeet Kune Do stuff anyway. Fong was a student of Bruce Lee, and the self-defense pictures show him throwing hooks or jabs while shifting sideways to one leg in an extended, leaning fashion. I've seen other Wing Chun guys carry their weight high like this and they appear vulnerable to a body knock-down by an inside grappler.

On a positive note; Fong has used his martial arts background to help in his counciling as a Methodist Minister, in the movie industry and in his personal battle with cancer. He's in great shape for 80, and that in itself may be the lesson.
"Beyond Kung Fu", which is published by "Black Belt", may have succumbed to the whims of the publisher and been simplified. I think it might be a decent intro to relaxed power for the novice Karate/Kung Fu student, but for seasoned practitioners, especially those already in internal or "soft power" Chinese arts, this book contains information you already know.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monkey Business

Yesterday it was once again time to empty my cup (beginners mind) and fill my instructor's rice bowl, paying a visit to Jake Burroughs for more Xingyi training.
On the agenda was another animal form, in this case the Monkey. Jake knows several versions, the one we worked on was as taught by Tim Cartmell. This is the first Xingyi form I have learned that uses the corners rather than a simple "I" pattern.
Monkey is the smartest animal, and fights with deception. While appearing to be shy and defensive, the monkey explodes with power and frenzy. The energy is light and mobile, using a hand-pass to neutralize an opponent's punch. Fingers are extended to rake at the opponent's eyes with paws (palms) slapping both defensively and offensively. Monkey attacks low to finish high, or finger-strikes at opponents eyes to illicit a response - perhaps then going low with a kick. There is a very powerful jumping knee-strike, and some Bagua-type footwork in the turns that enable leg trapping.
Without a doubt, the Monkey form contains some of the nastiest, dirtiest techniques I have learned so far in our Xingyi style. I looked around on youtube but couldn't find a sample of the form suitable for posting. As in many Chinese arts, there are countless variations of similar forms, and I don't want to misrepresent this one.
Let me say that video is the single greatest training tool we can use. Jake is very open and encourages students to film training sessions, and it is invaluable. It's priceless watching myself stumble through the tricky timing of a form like this, and no matter how many notes we take after class nothing compares to the raw truth of video. Additionally, we can see the form as our instructor wants it to be performed, and strive to achieve that level.
Jake went through many, many applications of the form and we finished up with some more conventional Boxing concepts and entries to grappling take downs. It's going to take weeks or months of practice to smooth this form out, but I now have a significant chunk of the animal forms with Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse and Tuo (or Alligator).
If you are in the Seattle area and interested in Traditional Chinese Martial Arts training, contact Jake Burroughs at his websites linked HERE and HERE

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Controversy Continues: Chris Dow Weighs In

Today's guest rant is from fellow Dojo Rat and author of "The Wellspring; An Inquiry Into The Nature Of Chi", Christopher Dow:

I can’t help but believe that this issue, raised most often by MMA advocates, is really a nonissue. MMA is, indeed, a sport—a viewpoint that most of its advocates would not dispute. To quote Wikipedia: “Originally promoted as a competition with the intention of finding the most effective martial arts for real unarmed combat situations, competitors were pitted against one another with minimal rules. Later promoters adopted many additional rules aimed at increasing safety for competitors and to promote mainstream acceptance of the sport.”
So, by definition, MMAs as they now are practiced are more limited than TMAs. While some MMA practitioners may be hell on wheels in the ring, where techniques are restricted, many could not stand up against a highly trained traditional martial artist on the street, where anything goes, including bone breaks, joint dislocation, tendon tearing, cavity strikes, and other debilitating and deadly techniques that take only an instant—and often no apparent effort—to accomplish. I think of someone like Yang Jwing-ming, whose expertise in chin na (not to mention several other TMAs) is so extensive, accurate, and fast that to present him with an antagonistic limb in any form or at any speed and power is to know instant pain and defeat—not to mention a probable hospital stay.
But let’s get to the reality of the situation. Mixed martial artists—and those who practice some of the more brutal combat arts such as Krav Maga—train strictly to fight a human opponent, and therein lies their failing no matter how effective they may be in combat. The truth is, the vast majority of us will never get into a fight, or if we do, it will be a rare occurrence generally against an opponent who is not well trained. Think drunk, basic belligerent jerk, or brawler. Against these opponents, the automatic trained responses of the average-to-good martial artist are probably effective enough to quickly end or divert a fight as most aggressors are interested in intimidation, not in getting hurt.
But all of us, whether we train in martial arts or not, do battle daily with some of our worst enemies: depletion of energy, ageing, illness, aches and pains, lack of direction, lack of concentration, stubbornness, laziness, and other ailments and negative proclivities of the human condition. Against these enemies, MMAs can’t hold a candle to TMAs—particularly the internal martial arts. Anyone who doesn’t believe this should watch the movies Requiem for a Heavyweight or The Wrestler. Both are realistic portrayals of the toll that ring combat sports take on the human body and spirit. Or, if you need real-life examples, think of Muhammad Ali, whose Parkinson’s Disease was probably caused by too many blows to the head or Mickey Rourke, star of The Wrestler, disfigured and also the recipient of too many head strikes, forcing him to retire from the ring and return to acting (thank goodness!). Then afterward, watch any YouTube video of traditional martial arts masters in their seventies and eighties who move as if they are decades younger than their calendar ages. To put it another way, the “broken-down pug” is a well-known stereotype for a reason, but how may of us have an image of the “broken-down karateka,” or, even more ludicrous, “the broken-down tai chi chuanist?”
If you’re going into the ring against an opponent, go ahead and practice MMA. Even Ali could barely stand up—literally—to mixed martial artist Antonio Inoke in 1976. The bout was called after fifteen rounds because Ali’s legs were bleeding from the kicks Inoke administered, and later, his legs became infected and developed blood clots. But if your principal enemy is the toll that life takes in many and various ways, TMAs are for you. The fact that they most definitely train you to defend yourself should the rare occasion arise is icing on the cake.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Raging Debate: Spirituality In The Martial arts

For those who are interested, there is a great debate (5 pages so far) on "Spirituality, Health, and Training to Fight" over at "The Rum Soaked Fist".

Here's The Link

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Traditional MA / Mixed MA, And The Three Dantiens

Yesterday in last post's comment section, reader Aric and I opened up the Traditional Martial Arts / Mixed Martial Arts can of worms again.
I am the first to say that practical sports like Western Boxing and Wrestling are perhaps the fastest path to fighting skills. But without the underpinning of philosophy and perhaps some form of meditative spirituality, Boxing, Wrestling and MMA are fight-sport, not Martial Arts. Just my opinion.

Where do the Dantien's fit in?

Let me see if this comparison works:
My Tai Chi Chuan instructor Michael Gilman was explaining the Three Dantiens to us. In my own words, the lower Dantien is near our navel, where we were connected to our Mother by the umbilical cord. It is where our sexuality stirs, and it is our physical center. The lower Dantien provides a sense of self.

The middle Dantien is in the chest, near the heart.
It is where we find our sense of love and responsibility to community, and is a higher level when concentrating on meditation and contemplation.

The upper Dantien is the "Third Eye", above the eyes in the forehead. It is associated with the Pineal Gland and is the highest level Dantien to open and meditate through. It is associated with psychic energy, extreme spiritual experience and all that is metaphysical.
This is the Dantien that is also opened up with drugs such as LSD, Magic Mushrooms, Peyote, etc. The problem is, some people who experiment with psychedelic drugs have no grounding in their sense of self or sense of community, found in the lower Dantiens. They have taken a short-cut on the long journey, but their vehicle has hit a bad stretch of road and trouble occurs. They have a Bad Trip...
So for young people, especially those that have no sense of self or sense of community, MMA is a similar short-cut. They may be given dangerous fighting skills, but in the wrong hands this can be socially and legally risky. Traditionally, Martial Arts Masters withheld the most dangerous techniques for only advanced and trusted students. Of course, this was in the era of the firearm, where Martial Arts stopped being a profession and moved into society as cultural expression and personal self defense. It was also at that time when philosophy and spirituality (something the typical soldier didn't need) was meshed with the fighting skills.
It's OK to take things one-step-at-a-time. We don't have to take the short-cut and risk a bad trip.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Empty Hand: The Movie

Now this is my kind of reality show.
In this day of mixed martial arts craze, it's reassuring to see traditional Karate as it's meant to be practiced. It's also great to see the documentary is focused on young women, something that is occasionally overlooked in a macho martial world.
Across America, and perhaps across the world traditional martial arts are loosing favor to those who choose the more eclectic mixed martial art training.
Most people say it is because of the shortcomings in traditional fighting styles. I say it's because traditional martial arts training is harder work. You don't just go to the mat and punch and roll. You learn etiquette, cultural values, ancient yet useful weapons, and most importantly, rank and discipline. All these are missing in modern American culture, the ultimate "ME" generation.
-"Empty Hand" looks like a great documentary and something that could inspire this generation of traditional martial artists. I hope to give it further review later.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4th: Jack Nicholson On Freedom

Yes, it's that time again.
I am a creature of habit, and regular readers of Dojo Rat will know that this short video from "Easy Rider" is my favorite statement for "Independence Day."

I have had reason lately to reflect on the aspect known as Freedom. I never quite fit with the "in crowd" when I was a kid. I avoided team sports in favor of individual sports like wrestling and gymnastics. I opted for wilderness survival and mountain climbing training. I never had the perfect girl or perfect car in high school. Instead, I had old hot rods that always had to be worked on, and relationships that matched. And through that process of growing up, I found out what independence was. I lived in the woods. When my friends were getting married and having kids, I was getting my Black Belt.
I have seen friends, and yes, family members slip into comfortable consumerism. They have sold their soul to have that perfect car and trophy wife. They put the monkey suit on and shave every morning and drive through miles of stalled traffic to work at a shit job. They are marketing a version of the American dream that they barely believe in themselves. They have mid-life crises. They have broken marriages.
I'm the luckiest guy in the world. My wife loves me. I still live in the woods, but I have better tools to accommodate that now.
I have never been on an airplane in my life. Might have to someday I guess, but why break a perfect record now.
Every day I get up and decide what I want to do. I take the time to do Tai Chi or other martial arts before I go to work. I only work for people that pay well and respect me. My truck is ten years-old but runs great. I've managed farms and had lots of dogs over the years.
And now, through this technology, I have met people from all over the world. We are all connected, in part because of our love of martial arts. While we are all eclectic individuals, we are social animals and share our lives and ideas.
"The strength of the Pack is the Wolf, but the strength of the Wolf is the Pack"

Celebrate your Freedom.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Boxer Rebellion

Thanks to James Keating at MAAJAK for the tip on the historical website with detailed pictures of Peking.

The Boxer Rebellion was a fascinating and terrifying event as Western colonial powers clashed with populist nationalist movements. Here's what Wikipedia says about it:

"In 1900, the great powers had been chipping away at Chinese sovereignty for sixty years. They had defeated China in several wars and imposed unequal treaties under which foreigners and foreign companies in China were accorded special privileges and immunities from Chinese law. Thus, by 1900, the Qing dynasty that had ruled China for more than two centuries was crumbling and Chinese culture was under assault by powerful alien religious and secular culture.[6]"
"Another cause was the land grabs of the Western countries. France, Japan, Russia, and Germany carved out spheres of influence and by 1900 it appeared that China would likely be dismembered with Western powers each ruling a part of the country. The British and Americans wished China to remain intact, while retaining their privileges and treaty ports. The British dominated trade with China, including the important opium trade. Opium addiction was a major problem in China."

As a result, Westerners and Christians were attacked and killed in a bloody uprising.
Western diplomats and some Chinese Christians held out for 55 days in fortified buildings with little ammunition. The Boxers held spiritual beliefs that their martial skill and occult powers would protect them from rifle and cannon fire, which proved wrong with deadly results.
Finally, "“The Eight-Nation Alliance was an alliance made up of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States whose military forces invaded China while putting down the Boxer Uprising in August of 1900."
Foreign Troops Enter Peking

Buildings Burn In Wake Of Rebellion

55 Days At Peking

Again, from Wikipedia:

"55 Days at Peking is a dramatization of the Battle of Peking during the Boxer Rebellion which took place in 1900 China. Fed up by foreign encroachment, the Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi uses the Boxer secret societies to attack the foreigners within China, culminating in the siege of the foreign legations' compounds in Peking (now Beijing). The film concentrates on the defense of the legations from the point of view of the foreign powers, and the title refers to the length of the defense by the colonial powers of the legations district of Peking."
"The large cast was headlined by Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and David Niven. In addition to directing, Nicholas Ray plays the minor role of the head of the American diplomatic mission in China. This film is also the first known appearance of future martial arts film star Yuen Siu Tien. The acclaimed Japanese film director Juzo Itami, credited in the film as "Ichizo Itami", appears as Colonel Goro Shiba."

(D.R.)- Of course the film is from a Euro-centric point of view, "white man's burden", "manifest destiny", and Christian evangelicalism drive the plot. It appears many of the actors are not even Chinese.
However, this is a great movie. It does capture the elements of suspense and bloody terror brought about by this event, despite the obvious problems associated with colonialism. It's long, at 2 hours 40 minutes, but a great movie none-the-less.